From Dubai to Alotau

Late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. Retired Emirates Airlines Captain Timothy Narara recalled meeting the late Sir Michael.
Retired Emirates Airlines Captain Timothy Narara. – Nationalpic by KENNEDY BANI

FRIDAY, Feb 26, was a sad day for most people, whether Papua New Guineans or not, where our founding father Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare passed away.
This was also the day where I was on a duty travel to Gurney airport in Alotau, Milne Bay on board the Air Niugini Boeing 737 for its inaugural flight there.
The sad news did put a dark cloud over the event in Gurney. A minute of silence was observed before the occasion.
At Gurney, in the midst of all dignitaries who gathered, I spotted one of PNG’s great pilot, now retired Captain Timothy Narara or ‘Tico’.
I couldn’t go pass without an interview.
Narara is the first Papua New Guinean licensed to fly the Airbus A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world, for Emirates Airlines.
A proud Papua New Guinean and a great ambassador, I asked him about whether or not he had crossed path with the late Sir Michael.
“Yes in November 2005, Sir Michael Somare was on his way back from the Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting in Malta with his entourage. I received a call from his then protocol officer and my relative, the late David Tauwaole.
“Basically they were transiting Dubai but the transit time was almost 40 hours and waiting at the terminal was out of the question for the Grand Chief.
“I called Emirates and they gave me a few rooms including a presidential suite they had in reserve for such occasions
“I also put together some vehicles for transportation of the entourage and organised a meet and greet with the PNG community where we had lunch.

Captain Timothy Narara in the cockpit of the Airbus A380. – Picture supplied

“The Grand Chief and I sat at the head of the table along with my brother, Granger and the head of Emirates Operations, Adel al Rehda who also attended on behalf of the Sheikh.
“The GC was genuinely grateful and was hoping there would be a possibility of an embassy in the United Arab Emirates in the future. Adel al Rehda echoed his sentiments.
“Since that meeting, the GC always paused and said hello to me and asked of my family whenever our paths crossed
“Such a great man,” Narara said.
Narara, who is from Esa’ala District of Milne Bay is back at his hometown, Alotau.
“After spending some 11 years with the PNG Defence Force and four years with Air Niugini, I went overseas to Dubai to fly for Emirates Airline.
“Flying for a foreign company gives you perspective and humbles you, knowing that there are a lot more smarter people out there. It encourages and gives you the drive to want to do better so as to match their knowledge or better.
“My 22 years in Emirates has allowed me to learn and adapt to new experiences and gave me the tools required for use in later life. I have gained considerable amount of exposure both by travel and by working for a very successful international airline.
“I knew I could not live there forever and that one day I would return to PNG to begin the next stage of my life of giving back.

Traditional dancers from Milne Bay wecoming and celebrating the arrival of the Boeing 737

“I returned with my wife and 18-year-old son in October last year. My son was supposed to be in University in Australia by then, but Covid-19 prevented that. My other two sons work and live in Dubai.
“We are based in Alotau, my home town, where I will begin the next stage of my life.
“My advice to the young generation is that all is not lost.
“I know there is a large gap in our education process and there are not many jobs out there. The truth is, there is a lot to be made in agriculture and trades. Remember, not everyone needs a lawyer or an accountant but everyone needs to eat and requires a handy man.
“While waiting for the government to roll out its initiatives in improving services, we should take the initiative to do something productive on our land and better our lives and prepare for our children.”
Narara said it was a boost for Milne Bay with the B737 inaugural flight to Gurney.
“It displays to the rest of the country that the government has realised the potential of Milne Bay and its need for a larger aircraft to cater for its requirements. Milne Bay is leading the way in tourism in the country and while Covid -19 has restricted that in some way, the Tourism Bureau is busy behind the scenes in anticipation for the return of normalcy.
“The fact that the B737 was flown in by two pilots of Milne Bay heritage, speaks volumes about the potential we have in producing some great professionals who can contribute effectively to the growth of the nation.”